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Revelations: We all have scars

Sept. 16, 2011 at 4:16 a.m.


By Jennifer Preyss

Have you ever had a conversation that silences your mind, aborts the to-do list syphoning through your thoughts, and forces you to pause?

I experienced such a conversation the other day with 19-year-old Jennifer Bays. I sat with Jennifer at her kitchen table last week and discussed openly her former struggles with self-harm. Jennifer, a Christian and member of Faith Family Church, is a cutter. At least, she was a cutter.

For those unfamiliar with cutting, it's a form of self-harm where individuals cut their flesh to feel pain, deal with emotional turmoil and escape reality for a time. At age 14, Jennifer began cutting her forearms with knives to escape years of bullying and tremendous emotional insecurities.

As Jennifer describes it, cutting was, in some ways like a drug-induced high. Other teens experiencing similar stress, may turn to alcohol, drugs or sex. Jennifer turned to the knife.

To look at her now, you might never know she had such a past. A beautiful brunette with guileless eyes and biting wit, Jennifer seems altogether stable.

If it weren't for the numerous raised scars etched on her forearms, I may have glanced at her in other circumstances and assumed she's just another cavalier teenager.

Yet she's the product of a stable, well-educated, Christian family; she lives in a perfectly well-manicured neighborhood. From the outside, her life seems ethereal.

But her scars allude to a different story - a story of terror, pain, defeat, conquering and recovery.

At the kitchen table, she told me in no uncertain terms that Christ saved her life. The Lord restored her mind, heart, family and instilled in her a desire to help other cutters and their families. Her recovery has baffled doctors, psychiatrists and family members, who have seen her beat diagnoses of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, ADD, ADHD, manic depression and others, and reduce her daily medications from 13 pills to two.

So, yes, her meds have balanced her hormones finally, but Jennifer said God seems to have made the biggest impact. Where doctors and therapists failed to heal her (actually intensifying her cutting through the years with the experimental influx of prescriptions and psychological treatments), Jennifer's relationship with the Lord outbid them.

Dressed in a deep blue, short-sleeved T-shirt, Jennifer's scars were apparent to me at the kitchen table that day.

But when I asked her whether she's ashamed of the visibility of the markings (each of them faded, but by no means concealed) she responded calmly, "No. They're my testimony."

The irony (and pip) about Jennifer's story is that she proudly displays her scars as if they were a mark of God's grace and salvation.

On the drive home, I reflected on all the people I know - some of them close to me, and others mere acquaintances - who likely suffer from profound emotional scars, tucked neatly beneath their daily smiles.

That woman you see at church all the time, who's always so supernaturally put together; the classmate who never seems to study, but knows all the answers; or what about that boyfriend/girlfriend who always goes out of his way to humiliate you.

Isn't is likely that some of that is driven by deep-rooted emotional scars?

I thought about my own scars, and the measures I take to keep them carefully hidden.

But unlike Jennifer, I have the luxury of keeping them hidden from the world until I'm ready to let you see the pain.

But what if we followed Jennifer's model, and turned our hurts over to God?

What if we decided to deal with the past and let God fade our scars, so we could wear them as a mark of God's grace and salvation?

What if we could walk around recovered, unashamed of our past hurts? What if we could lead others to victory, and announce, "Those scars are part of my testimony."

Jennifer's story makes this Jennifer want to try.

Jennifer Preyss is a reporter for the Victoria Advocate. You can reach her at 361-580-6535 or jlpreyss@vicad.com.

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